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Planes, buses, trains – getting around in India

Written by 9 August 2009 One Comment

First of all, I am full of shit.

I was actually thinking I’d come to India like a second Crocodile Dundee where no snake bites, no robbers, no infectious diseases could tame my sense for adventure. I thought I would come here and if I had to, I would walk all the way to darjeeling with a detour to calcutta’s house of charity, originally founded by Mother Theresa, where I would drop of all the sick folks I’d picked up along the way.
In reality, 5 days into my stay in India, after a painful, dirty 30-hour train ride from Mumbai to Kerala, full-on diarrhea and sore muscles from carrying a heavy backpack, I’ve now said good-bye to cheap but uncomfortable train-rides and hello to the world on Indian inland flights. In fact, I was so thrilled about the idea of spending only 50 euros and avoiding 50 hours worth of train travel that I bought not one but 3 flights. Kochi to delhi, Delhi to Calcutta, Calcutta to Mumbai. And back home from there. 3 little plane rides and all of a sudden India feels like a walk in the park.

Here’s a little list of the pros and cons of train versus plane travel:


  • takes an average of 1 to 2 hours
  • full meals from smiley flight attendants in saris
  • missing out on a lot of scenery, fewer opportunities to meet local Indians


  • takes an average of 10 to 48 hours (depending on how hardcore you chose the length of your journey)
  • is almost always delayed
  • hanging out at railway station usually means tons of children, women, old people begging
  • great scenery watching, some of my most memorable images of india are things i saw through that open window
  • you’re likely to befriend a welcoming Indian family who sits near you and will likely offer you some of their homemade goodies while asking you all about your origin and marital status

kerala mumbai 048

So really, train rides are not all that bad at all. Besides, in India there are 5 classes you can travel in

– chair class, dirt cheap but definitely not an option as this department is always overcrowded and you’re not certain of a seat assignment
– sleeper class, a popular option for most backpackers as here you get a bed attributed and there are open windows and fans to keep you cool(ish)
– 3AC, 2AC, 1AC – the AC classes are 3 to 8 times more expensive than sleeper class which do not make them a fab option. however, if like me, you’ve just put a very long journey behind you in sleeper class you might crave the comfort of an AC train department with curtains and linen on your bed, closed windows (means no outside dirt coming in) and rich Indian families and business types as your department mates, so a lot less hassle here with stares etc.

And buses?, you may ask. Let me tell you this much: DO NOT TAKE BUSES IN INDIA. I might be exaggerating but seriously I have made only bad experiences with buses and so have a lot of people I talked to about the issue. If you’re not stuck with goats and chickens then you’ll probably have a broken tire or an icy cold AC on and a conductor who could care less.

kerala mumbai 029

Our first flight to Delhi leaves on Wednesday.

Dear Indian transport system, maybe we can be friends after all.

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One Comment »

  • Ambrose Niksich said:

    Going to jump straight in here and share, that taking a few moments, to have a quick hunt around the internet and seek out the best value train ticket deals you can locate, regardless, if it’s for an inland railway or coastal train corridor, it’s a wise way, to get hold of the type of train tickets you’re keen on, at money saving prices and I’m always pleased to share with other people the online sources I’m aware of!

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